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Best Apps To Learn Italian (2023 Reviews)
Discover the best way to learn Italian with these top-rated courses and programs online
Once you’ve decided to learn to speak Italian, the next choice is how to learn. And given that language apps tend to be the most practical, affordable, and frankly, effective means of learning to speak a new language, this is likely the route you will go. But with dozens of online programs, how do you know which one is best for you? In this comprehensive guide, we cover our list of the top four Italian apps (among the 20+ we’ve tested), and elaborate on which situation each may be best for.
In the video above, John from the Test Prep Insight team walks you through each Italian language app to make our best list, including why we think these particular programs are so good. For more detail regarding each Italian language app, be sure to continue reading our full written guide below.
After reviewing more than a dozen Italian apps over the course of several weeks, Rocket Italian rose to the top of our list. Here are a few reasons why.
Audio Lessons Develop Your Verbal Skills
One of the most prominent features of Rocket’s program and it’s clearest highlight is the framework of interactive audio lessons. In these half-hour long exercises, you listen to and engage with fluent speakers within the construct of a guided conversation.
This mock dialogue is at the heart of each Rocket Italian lesson, and is incredibly effective for improving your listening comprehension and speaking skills. No other app (apart from maybe Pimsleur), comes this close to simulating real world experience (not even Rosetta Stone).
Rather than focusing on the typical drills and exercises that we saw with other apps, which don’t necessarily boost your conversational skills, Rocket focuses on just that: actually listening and speaking. And given that you’re likely learning Italian to, you know, speak Italian, we love the emphasis on output.
Diverse Set Of Practice Drills To Drive Home Retention
Another aspect of this Italian program that we loved was the practice drills. Backstopping all of the audio lessons, Rocket provides a slate of reinforcement exercises. These drills take place right after you complete the audio lesson, and are intended to drive home the material you just learned.
These exercises include things like flashcards, fill-in-the-blanks, writing drills, and speed quizzes. The point is to get you to interact with the new words and phrases you just learned from different perspectives, thus increasing retention.
In essence, Rocket takes the types of drills that other apps use as the basis of their program and layers them in behind their audio lessons to double up on content instruction. And while this may make the lessons longer, they are also more comprehensive and in-depth because of this.
Accurate Speech Recognition Technology
Another clear highlight of the Rocket Italian program is their speech recognition software. As you complete the audio lessons and accompanying exercises, Rocket uses Google’s web speech API to record your voice and grade your pronunciation.
The will rate your pronunciation on a scale from 1 to 100 and provide feedback in an effort to help you improve your accent. While this isn’t unique to Rocket Italian (most other apps do this as well), their use of Google’s tech is very smart given its quality.
Helpful Grammar Instruction
Lastly, Rocket’s emphasis on grammar instruction within its coursework is noteworthy. Not all apps focus on grammar, which can be detrimental to your speech patterns as you learn.
The Rocket Italian audio lessons, as well as the supplemental “language & culture lessons” are chock full of helpful explanations and tips to help you learn all the different grammar rules and principles of the Italian language. It is much more in-depth than we have seen with other apps.
Why Babbel Is The Best Budget Option For Learning Italian
Rocket Italian may be our highest-rated Italian program, but it doesn’t come cheap. With lifetime only packages that run into the hundreds of dollars, it might simply be too expensive for some people. For those looking for a value-driven Italian app with a low monthly subscription price, Babbel is our pick for the following reasons.
Cheap Price Point
Babbel costs just $7 to $14 per month (depending on which package you go with). Compared to other Italian apps, that is one of the most affordable language learning tools on the market.
This is particularly true if you can find Babbel’s Italian course on sale, which they run pretty regularly. Plus, the discounts usually stay in place on a monthly basis so long as you stay subscribed. In short, we love Babbel’s value proposition.
Yet, we don’t love Babbel just for their low cost. If that was the only factor, Busuu, Duolingo and others would have to make this list as well. We also love Babbel for their lesson format and content delivery, as discussed further below.
Short, Engaging Lessons
From a substantive standpoint, our absolute favorite feature of the Babbel program is the design of their short, engaging lessons. Taking just 10-15 minutes each, Babbel’s lessons are perfect for busy people squeezing lessons in here and there where they can.
Beyond the length though, the lessons are also diverse, fast-moving and fun. Within each lesson you’ll usually work through a dozen or more different exercises, covering everything from fill-in-the-blanks to short, mock conversations.
Plus, Babbel even includes quick daily review sessions for increased recall. These sessions take just 2-3 minutes per day and are great for improving retention.
Awesome Speech Recognition Technology
Much like Rocket Italian, Babbel’s speech recognition technology is also top-notch. They frequently have you repeat words and phrases within the app, then judge your pronunciation.
While Babbel Italian doesn’t give you a grade from 1 to 100 like Rocket, they will provide more qualitative feedback like “you’re a pro” or “needs improvement.” While not quite as good, we found this generally helpful and thought their tech was very accurate (better than the tech from Mondly).
Easy To Understand Grammar Content
Babbel sneaks grammar instruction into their program in a very sly way. Rather than hitting you over the head with text-heavy lessons, they use little “tip” popups. As you work through an exercise, tips will pop up about conjugating verbs, modifying adjectives, and other important points.
This sleek means of grammar delivery is smart, because you learn without even feeling like you’re learning. Because it’s carried out mainly with once-sentence instructions and examples, it’s super easy to digest.
Sleek, Easy-To-Use Digital Platform
The last noteworthy feature of Babbel’s program is the platform itself. Babbel’s user interface and experience overall is one of the best we’ve seen. It’s modern, fun and incredibly easy to navigate. I’m fairly sure my tech-illiterate uncle could use it.
Reasons Why Pimsleur Makes The Best Italian Courses List
Similar to Rocket Italian in numerous ways, Pimsleur is one of our favorite Italian language programs. And though Pimsleur grades ever-so-slightly lower than Rocket, they might actually be a better fit for you based on their subtle differences. Here’s why Pimsleur makes out list.
Interactive Audio Lessons
Much like Rocket, Pimsleur’s Italian program is also founded on audio lessons. They are the bedrock of this course. To begin every Pimsleur lesson (there are roughly 150 in the entire course), you listen to a 30-minute audio exercise.
These exercises are guided conversations where a moderator speaking in English walks you through the exchange step-by-step. She tells you what exactly you’re about to hear and why, and then frequently pauses to explain things and provide tips. It’s sort of like listening to an Italian podcast with English breakdowns.
Additionally, you’re frequently called upon to speak yourself. Pimsleur wants to get you talking, and as such, will have you practice your newly learned verbal skills right alongside the Italian speakers. These lessons are incredibly powerful at getting you talking, and fast (unlike the Italian lessons from Duolingo).
Effective Practice Exercises
The audio lessons aren’t the only way in which Pimsleur’s course tracks with Rocket Italian. Pimsleur too uses a diverse set of drills to backstop their audio lessons.
These drills include speed games, flashcards, matching pairs, and listening exercises. The intent is to improve your comprehension by seeing the same material through multiple perspectives. And it works.
These reinforcement exercises make the Pimsleur program incredibly comprehensive and deep. It’s one of the main reasons why Pimsleur nabs such a high grade.
Special Driving Mode
One big difference between Pimsleur and Rocket Italian (apart from the lifetime vs monthly payment structure), is that Pimsleur offers users a special driving mode for their app and lessons, while Rocket does not.
In essence, because the bulk of the Pimsleur lessons are audio-based, you can complete them without having to look at a screen. So why not do them while driving? It’s no different than a podcast.
So if you have a long daily commute, or simply find yourself driving quite a bit for whatever reason, this offers a distinct advantage. You can kill two birds with one stone and make the most of your time by enabling the driving mode feature to knock out lessons on the go.
Free Trial Period
Unlike most other apps, Pimsleur actually offers a free trial period. Rather than having to input your credit card and commit to some level of purchase, you can use the Pimsleur program for 7 days risk free. This is great for kicking the tires on the course and seeing if you like it before diving straight in.
If you’re looking for live instruction, and not necessarily a self-study type of program, then iTalki would be our pick. To be clear – iTalki is not a standalone language learning course with an app or coursework.
Rather, iTalki focuses exclusively on 1-on-1 tutoring and instruction. Their program is built entirely on live classes with certified fluent instructors, offering a more personalized type of experience.
How iTalki Italian Works
iTalki isn’t your typical Italian app, like Rosetta Stone or Duolingo. There aren’t any drills, lessons or homework. How it works is actually pretty simple. On the iTalki website, there are dozens of Italian tutors listed in a marketplace-style directory.
Every tutor has a detailed bio, including which languages they speak, their Italian proficiency (usually native), experience, and a quick intro video. This allows you to scroll through, see which tutor might align best with your goals and knowledge level, and then select one from there.
Additionally, to prevent you from plopping down a sizable amount of money on some tutoring sessions only to find out you and your new tutor don’t jive, iTalki offers super cheap trial sessions.
Basically, for $3-$7 you can have a 30-minute session with your chosen tutor to make sure it’s a good fit before committing to further classes. This is a nice, affordable way of helping you to match with the right teacher before fully diving in.
Which Types Of Learners Is iTalki Italian Best For?
If you’re not the type of person who likes to self-study, whether because you want the energy of learning with othersor you need a set schedule of classes to keep yourself accountable to make progress, then iTalki is a great choice.
The iTalki program offers a nice way to interact with experienced teachers in a live environment, ask questions on the fly, and get immediate feedback on your pronunciation.
In the sessions I took, I loved my tutor. She was super friendly, engaging, and had a great game plan for me as an Italian beginner. Tutors can also be super helpful for students preparing for the AP Italian exam.
To learn Italian is not an easy feat, particularly for native English speakers. Although English and Italian share many characteristics, they also maintain significant differences.
For example, let’s consider the frequency range of languages, as measured in Hertz. Most languages start at a very low frequency, and range up from there. Spanish, French, Dutch, German, and Russian all start at just 125 Hertz on the low end of the spectrum.
In stark contrast, Italian and English both start in the 2,000 Hertz range. Yes, you read that correctly. Most English and Italian words have a low end that is almost 20x what other European languages begin with. That is a wild stat.
However, though both start at the same level (again, 2,000 Hertz), most Italian words cap out at around 4,000 to 5,000 Hertz. In contrast, English words range up well above the average European language to 12,000+ Hertz.
Thus, although much of the English and Italian vocabulary are on the same wavelength, and thus easier to pick up for native speakers, many English words fall well above what Italian listeners are used to.
It’s a nerdy, but interesting factoid in my opinion. And one that can prove helpful to learn Italian.
As a native English speaker, if you can be cognizant of your voice inflection by keeping your voice slightly deeper, you might be able to make yourself easier to understand. People have an “ear” for languages based on the frequency of their mother tongue.
Thereof, as you speak Italian words, keeping your voice in lower frequency ranges may very well help you connect better with Italian speakers.
Plus, just being honest, words in the Italian vocabulary can be a mouthful for English speakers. I have even heard native Italian speakers having trouble with some Italian words. They are just spoken so quickly! So don’t get down on yourself with respect to your language learning as you begin.
To learn Italian takes serious commitment, time, and of course, a good app to learn Italian. I’ve noted my favorite app to learn Italian above, as well as several others. In fact, at this point, I’ve tested over 18 of them, so I know what I’m talking about.
Some Italian apps have a free version. Some Italian programs are pricey. Some have long Italian lessons, and others have very short ones (Duolingo takes just 5 minutes!). And some were so bad I quit on them after a week. The point is that all these Italian apps and programs have different characteristics – some good, some bad.
Regardless of which one you go with, I have found that consistency is key to language mastery. You need to be completing Italian language lessons every week (and preferably every day). And look, I know that might sound awful. Almost like a chore. However, it’s not really that bad.
To learn Italian, just make your language learning a part of your everyday routine. Frankly, to learn Italian, you need to treat it like a habit. For me, this came in the form of spending a half hour every night after dinner on my app to learn Italian. But hey, it’s better than playing computer games in my opinion.
Honestly. Consider the benefits to your brain of learning a new language like Italian. Instead of mindlessly watching some show on Hulu or playing Call of Duty, you’re working out your mind with language learning exercises and memorizing Italian vocabulary.
It’s like a workout for your brain. And because of this I didn’t feel like such a slug when I would go to sleep. Because I spent time training my brain to learn Italian rather than some pointless Hollywood content, I felt more productive. I felt like I accomplished something.
So my best advice: don’t get down, stay optimistic, practice everyday, and make using an app to learn Italian a part of your daily routine.
Language Learning Tips (Beyond Italian Apps & Courses)
Using your language app to learn Italian is just one part of the learning journey (particularly if you’re using the limited free version from a company).
Even for Italian language learners knocking out multiple lessons per day on their app to learn Italian, this alone won’t cut it.
If you want to become truly fluent and start holding Italian conversations, you’ll need to incorporate some other learning exercises and little hacks into your daily routine. Here are seven other tips I have to learn Italian.
Use Post-It Notes To Learn Italian
As I completed lessons in my app to learn Italian, I routinely wrote the Italian words I learned on post-it notes. I would then leave the post-it’s all over my apartment.
I would place them on the stove, TV, trash can, shower, everywhere. My house was literally covered with Italian vocabulary on little yellow post-it’s.
Clearly, using a post-it note for every new Italian language word you learn just isn’t feasible. Verbs and adverbs are especially tricky to manage with this hack.
For example, where would you stick a post-it note for the verb “to visit.” If you have a good idea, let me know. In any event, the point I am trying to make is that nouns are easy to create post-its for, but other types of words in the Italian vocabulary can be hard.
In the end, for household items, which you speak about in Italian pretty frequently as you first start speaking Italian, this trick words well. But to converse with native Italian speakers with a certain level of fluency, you will need to up your Italian vocabulary at some point. But when you’re a beginner, it’s great.
Watch Italian TV
Watching TV is not exactly an original language learning trick, but I have to admit that it works. Obviously you will have to hit a certain threshold of fluency in your Italian learning journey in order to watch Italian TV, but once you achieve that level of fluency, this hack (like the other I’ve suggested) really works.
My pro tip for this hack: begin with Italian children’s shows. Sure, you can eventually switch to the Italian version of Modern Family (my personal Italian favorite) and South Park, but you need to walk before you can run.
Honestly, you may feel ridiculous watching Italian television shows made for kids, but they are shockingly effective to learn Italian.
In terms of where to find these types of toddler shows, I would suggest checking YouTube. There are a lot of free shows on this Google-based platform. Sometimes the picture quality is a little suspect, and it can be tough to nail down complete episodes, but they do exist on YouTube.
Also, another savvy trick is to turn on closed captioning. This is another next level trick that really works. That was especially helpful for me to learn Italian. After a while, you’ll want to turn off the subtitles to focus on listening to the Italian language, but that will come in time.
A Trip Abroad To Italy
Did Someone say “trip to Italy”? Um, yes please. If we are being honest with ourselves, nothing accelerated my Italian skills and fluency like immersing myself in Italy for a month.
Now, I know that just isn’t feasible for some people. Most folks just can’t afford (in time or money) to take a month away from family and work to visit Rome or Florence (or both). But if you can, it is absolutely worth it in terms of expediting your Italian listening comprehension and speaking skills.
Hearing Italian being spoken around you all day, every day for a month is an incredible opportunity to learn. Complete immersion doesn’t come cheap (in terms of time or money), but it really does work. You can take that to the bank.
To be honest, I was very nervous to use my new Italian skills with locals when I first landed. It was just intimidating. However, by the time I was boarding my flight home, I was confidently speaking Italian, and my Italian vocabulary was much broader than when I landed.
My recall was quicker, my verb conjugations were more accurate, and I knew I had corrected a lot of my bad habits in terms of sentence structures.
The one issue is that because you’re a visitor, many native Italian speakers will try to speak to you in English. They are trying to be friendly and accommodating (and often sell you something), so you will have to rebuff their friendly English outreach and ask them to use Italian, so you can actually learn Italian.
Italian YouTube Videos
I know I already referenced YouTube in connection with finding Italian children’s television shows. However, notwithstanding children’s TV, YouTube can be a great resource. There are seemingly hundreds of Italian language YouTube channels that focus on nothing other than teaching Italian.
Most of the YouTube channel moderators are Italian tutors and teachers, so they know their stuff. And I don’t just mean speaking the Italian language. I more specifically am referring to how they communicate their material.
This is the critical part of YouTube videos. There are roughly 60 million people in the world that speak Italian as their mother tongue. However, among these millions, there are only so many that can effectively teach Italian to English speakers. So when you find a good YouTube channel, milk it for all it’s got.
These Italian videos often cover elementary vocabulary, grammar principles, pronunciation, how to conjugate verbs, and a bunch more. I particularly like the videos that focus on Italian culture. I love Italy with a passion, so learning interesting cultural tidbits is always fun for me.
In sum, as part of your routine to learn Italian, I would incorporate some YouTube videos. They are an incredible, totally free resource.
There are hundreds of Italian podcasts on the internet. Maybe thousands even. And though most are geared toward native speakers with an emphasis on art, architecture, politics, religion, and the like, some are aimed at teaching English speakers how to speak Italian.
They can be hard to find, but when you can locate a podcast that fits the bill, they’re great. In fact, many of these Italian podcasts are sponsored or created by the language companies themselves, like Rosetta Stone.
If I were you, that’s where I would actually start by looking. Babbel offers an excellent podcast, as does Duolingo. Basically, if there’s an app to learn Italian, there’s a good chance the company also has a podcast.
I especially liked listening to podcasts on my commute to work. I would just throw on an episode and zone out while in traffic. It’s a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Peruse Italian Reddit Threads
Another tip to learn Italian (outside of using an app to learn Italian), is Reddit. The r/Italian subreddit is super useful.
It’s full of like-minded, Italian learners. Some people are totally fluent, but there are many that are just starting out as well.
This subreddit is a great place to get your questions answered, start a thread to get a conversation going, or just troll around for some fun.
Rather than killing time on TikTok and YouTube Shorts, I love to go to this subreddit to burn my time. There are always new and interesting questions that I check out.
I don’t post that often, but when I do, users seem to be pretty active and answer right away. I’ll check back a half hour after posting and will have a dozen responses. It’s kind of wild. Plus, it has a great community feel. Not all subreddits have a community-like feel (and can actually be pretty toxic), but the “r/Italian” subreddit is great.
Bottom line, it’s a great forum for engaging with like-minded Italian learners.
Want To Be Pen Pals?
My last and final trick for learning Italian is to find yourself a pen pal (digitally, that is). Now where do you find one? Good question.
There are some websites that connect people in a digital pen pal relationship, but your better bet is to go through an app. Italian apps like Memrise are great for this.
You can connect with people that are learning English, just like you’re learning Italian. So they’ll send you a voice message in English, which you can respond to in Italian. It’s really cool.
Other Thoughts On The Italian Language
I’ve loved Italy since my first trip there with my family when I was 16 years old. I love the beautiful coastlines, the food, and the people.
I know some people say that Italian people are not the friendliest in the world (especially to visiting Americans), but I’ve never seen that to be the case. I have never known Italian people to be anything but friendly, at least to me.
They always want to talk (and loudly, haha). Whether it’s to practice their own English, or because they want to make sure you are loving Italy and leave with a good memory, I am not sure. But Italian people have always been fun, engaging, and friendly to me.
Not to mention, I love Italian food. I just plain love, love, love it. I could eat Italian food all day. Risotto Alla Milanese, Arancini, Ossobuco – I love it all. I just wish the Italian food here in the US tasted as good as it does in Italy. But I’m probably just imagining it tastes better when I’m there.
Then, of course, there is the natural beauty of Italy. From gorgeous coastlines, to the Alps in the North, to vineyards of Tuscany. There is more natural beauty to Italy than perhaps any other country.
And a discussion of Italy wouldn’t be complete without touching on the architecture. From Neoclassical to Baroque, I love the architecture from every period. One of my favorite things is Italian walking tours – even of small cities.
And lastly, to round out this thought piece, there’s the Italian language. Italian is perhaps the most beautiful language in the world (right up there with French). One of the main love languages, it is simply gorgeous.
The rolling “R’s” and bouncy tones are music to my ears. So above all, as you continue your Italian language learning journey, never underestimate the beauty of the language itself.
As discussed ad nauseum, to learn Italian is not easy. In fact, it’s pretty hard. It takes time, practice and consistency, so don’t get down on yourself when you’re only a few months into the process and struggling to keep up with your Italian lessons. It will get easier, I promise.
What is the best app to learn Italian?
Among the more than dozen Italian language apps we’ve tested and reviewed, Rocket Italian emerged as our #1 Italian course. With deep audio lessons, reinforcement drills, insightful grammar tips, and a sleek platform, Rocket Italian offers the complete package.
How much do Italian language courses cost?
Italian apps vary widely in price, from totally free, to $50 per month subscription plans, to $500 lifetime packages. On average though, most Italian programs cost somewhere in the range of $8-$15 per month.
Are online language programs effective for learning Italian?
Yes, assuming you dedicate the time and stay consistent with your learning, online language programs can be highly effective for learning Italian. Like most learned skills, consistency and practice are key though.
How long does it take to learn Italian?
If you are consistently using a top rated language app or program, it should take you about 40 to 50 weeks to learn Italian and become somewhat fluent.